Arguably the state’s toughest swim conference will put this team through the gauntlet before they take on the Division 3 state meet, where they are sure to fight for the top with three returning All-American talents.
Let’s take a closer look at what to expect from the Lakers this winter.
Last year: 3rd O-K Greater Grand Rapids Swim Conference, 3rd Division 3 state finals
Key athletes: Cam Peel, K.J. Losee, Joey Wachter, Sam Sella, Eric Geschiere, Evan Shock
Team outlook: A truly elite group of swimmers returns to lead the Lakers, starting with defending 100 freestyle state champion and University of Michigan commit Cam Peel. The senior finished in the top three both of his individual events last season.
His state championship 100-yard freestyle time broke the Division 3 state record set in 2009, and was the second fastest of any swimmer in the state, behind only the division 1 champion Henry Schuette of Forest Hills Central.
Peel’s third-place finish in the 50 freestyle was the fifth fastest in the state overall, coming in behind Schuette and Austin Mills of Zeeland at the Division 1 finals and East Grand Rapids’ Christian Bart and Byron Centers’ Nolan Briggs (both now graduated) at the Division 3 finals.
The senior sprinter hasn’t stopped working since. At last week’s Speedo Winter Junior Nationals, Peel clocked his 50 freestyle at 20.06 seconds, 0.81 second faster than his state time last season, and 0.03 faster than the Michigan All-Class record, set by Clay Youngquist in 2011.
Close behind are juniors K.J. Losee and Joey Wachter, who joined Peel and Drew Fogel (Albion College) in the Lakers’ All-American 400 freestyle relay last year, which finished as the 96th fastest in the country and second at the Division 3 finals.
The trio also led a silver-medal swim in the 200 medley relay along with Will Brown last season.
Individually, Losee finished All-State in both of his events, grabbing fourth place in both the 200 freestyle and 500 freestyle. Wachter had a disappointing swim in the 100 freestyle to finish ninth and miss All-State, but followed it up with a stellar fifth-place effort in the 100 backstroke for All-State honors.
Senior Sam Sella returns as a member of the Lakers’ 13th place 200 freestyle relay from the state meet, while Eric Geschiere and Evan Schock will provide senior leadership as they look to break into the ranks of the state team.
Beyond their undeniably stellar returning core, the Lakers have a few interesting storylines in their ranks with nine freshmen and five first-time swimmers hoping to prove themselves in the pool. Included in those rookies are Andrew Hylen and Ben Hylen, Spring Lake’s brightest stars on the cross country and track teams, who will hit the pool for the first time as seniors.
“We have 29 swimmers and two divers this year, more than we have had in years,” said Spring Lake head coach Rob Peel. “We have 12 freshmen and five first-time swimmers. It is going to make for an exciting year.
“We have kids that I’m excited to see how the can improve throughout the season and another group who will improve from last year to become bigger scorers for us. Then, we have our three swimmers who are returning All-State, who we will count on for their leadership and carrying the load throughout the year.
“We’re in a difficult conference with Forest Hills and East Grand Rapids so the local competition is great in preparing us for the year-end championship meets in both our conference and state.
“Anyone who appreciated fast swimming and an energetic team will have fun watching the Lakers this year.”
Spring Lake kicks off its promising season Saturday at the West Michigan Relay Meet at East Kentwood High School. They will host just four home meets this season, beginning with Grand Haven on Dec. 20.